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The most expensive drug in the world
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved Hemgenix, the first gene therapy for the blood-clotting disorder haemophilia B. Its price tag of US$3.5 million makes it the world’s most expensive drug, but it could save the US health-care system millions for every person treated by eliminating the need for regular injections of factor IX, a protein involved in blood clotting. For the 15% of people with haemophilia who could benefit, “you can pretty much forget about haemophilia” in day-to-day life, says Edward Tuddenham, who helped to design the viral vector in Hemgenix.
Nuclear waste will power spacecraft
Nuclear waste could power space missions to the far reaches of the Solar System — places that are too dark for solar panels. Scientists are developing batteries containing americium-241, a radioactive isotope that can be extracted from power plants’ spent fuel. The project is funded by the European Space Agency, which hopes to wean itself off plutonium-powered equipment sourced from international partners.
Fraud claim at famed fossil site
A scientist who published evidence that the dinosaurs were wiped out in springtime has accused a colleague of fabricating data to support his own paper saying the same thing. Palaeontologist Melanie During published her work in Nature in February. She says that fellow fossil-hunter Robert DePalma, who published a study a couple of months earlier in Scientific Reports that scientists called “nearly identical”, wanted to scoop her. “We absolutely would not, and have not ever, fabricated data and/or samples to fit this or another team’s results,” says DePalma.
It’s the latest debate to arise from work at Tanis, a remarkable site in North Dakota, which some scientists think captured the first hours following the crash of the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. Tanis fossils have been boggling — and sometimes aggravating — scientists since 2019, when they were controversially first reported in The New Yorker rather than in a peer-reviewed paper. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that DePalma holds the lease to the Tanis site, which sits on private land, and relatively few scientists have visited it.
Reference: Nature paper & Scientific Reports paper
Features & opinion
Data on LGBTQ+ scientists urgently needed
“The scientific community can’t improve a situation that it refuses to measure,” says neuroscientist Jon Freeman about the fact that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) still isn’t collecting statistics on sexual orientation and gender identity. Collecting official statistics is the first step to addressing documented disparities faced by LGBTQ+ scientists in their careers, argues Freeman. Such data determine which groups are eligible for federal resources, including diversity fellowships and funding.
Bringing the physics lab to prisons
As part of a programme at Princeton University in New Jersey, astrophysics PhD student Erin Flowers teaches science to incarcerated people. Developing one of the United States’ first physics laboratory courses inside a prison proved particularly tricky because magnets, computers and sticky tape are all prohibited. “As an adhesive, we use the putty that swimmers put in their ears, and for calculations, we use pencils and graph paper,” she explains. “I’ve had students tell me that taking the course has changed their life by providing them with the opportunities that come with having a degree,” Flowers says.
World leaders: show up for biodiversity
The 15th United Nations Biodiversity Conference, COP15, opens today in Montreal, Canada. “Biodiversity is hoping for its Paris moment,” says a Nature editorial, referring to the momentous 2015 Paris climate agreement, which set a crucial goal to seek to limit warming to 1.5–2 °C above pre-industrial levels. At the time, the opening ceremony of the Paris conference held the record for the largest number of world leaders ever to attend a United Nations event in a single day — more than 150. The editorial calls for world leaders to make a similar show of support in Montreal that empowers national negotiators to reach a strong deal.
Infographic of the week
Physicists have used a quantum computer to generate an entity known as an emergent wormhole. Quantum systems can be linked by entanglement, even when separated by extremely long distances. The authors generated a highly entangled quantum state between the two halves of a quantum computer, creating an alternative description, known as a holographic dual, in the form of an emergent wormhole stretched between two exterior regions. They then simulated a message traversing this wormhole. Such exotic physics is part of efforts to reconcile quantum mechanics with the general theory of relativity. (Nature | 5 min read)
Go deeper with an expert analysis by theoretical physicists Adam Brown and Leonard Susskind in the Nature News & Views article (7 min read, Nature paywall)
See more of the week’s key infographics, selected by Nature’s news and art teams.